Skip to content

A better world really is possible: experiences from Cochabamba

Crowd at Closing Ceremony

I entered the closing ceremony of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth and was instantly moved. With at least 40 000 people packing the outdoor stadium, there was an air of reflection and celebration.

Groups of dancers circled the field demonstrating pride in the rich history of Bolivian cultures and flags of all colours and meanings waved in the warm air.

People mingled and greeted, new friends embraced and promises to stay in touch and pledges to move forward the inspiring work of the conference were shared.

Lively music blared from the large stage where governments and movements were thanked for participating in the historic conference. Bolivian President Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), invited government delegates and speakers from a variety of countries soaked in the atmosphere from the stage.

As promised, the newly announced Cochabamba Accord, a major outcome of the conference, was read to the crowd.

The new Accord is a direct response to the Copenhagen Accord.

Throughout the conference, 18 working groups met on a variety of topics such as climate debt and financing, the dangers of the carbon market, climate justice tribunal as well as vision and Kyoto Protocol (part of the official UN process).

These working groups hosted passionate debates and discussions leading to reports which, after further debate, were synthesized into what is now known as the Cochabamba Accord.

Reportedly a ten page document (translated versions to be available soon), President Morales has pledged to bring it forward to the UN, proposing it as parallel to the Copenhagen Accord.

This document reflects the overall themes of the conference in proposing an alternative path to the Copenhagen Accord.

This includes returning to the multilateral UNFCCC process instead of backroom negotiations amongst a handful of countries.

 Clear criticisms are articulated of the model that has been dominating international discussions – carbon markets (including cap and trade and offsets, for a good overview of these criticisms, refer to, ‘How Carbon Trading Works and Why it Fails).

Expressing alternatives to this model such as direct regulation, emission caps or fees without loopholes, climate debt repayment (not dependent on carbon markets – for a quick overview on  alternative, more just sources of funding, refer here) and recognizing the Rights of Mother Earth (to read the Bolivian gvoernment’s draft Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, refer here) are advocated.

Pachamama (Mother Earth) was a central theme of the conference. While this term may seem new to some of us, Pachamama is central to indigenous peoples worldwide. It describes the relationship and needed balance between humans and the earth.

This worldview connects very clearly to the demands of the growing climate justice movement as well as the water and trade justice movements in recognizing root causes of the multiple crises we face.

We must recognize that over production, consumption and trade are at the heart of why our air, water, and ecosystems are under threat. 

We need alternatives.

We need a just economy society that is driven by the interests of people and the environment, not profit and economic growth.

 This isn’t just platitudes.

With our support, the Cochabamba Accord can be an important document with the potential to influence future climate negotiations, including in Cancun this November. It can not only provide an alternative proposal to the Copenhagen Accord, it brings real solutions articulated by indigenous peoples and social movements in Cochabamba to the UN negotiations.

Concrete proposals reflecting the intention and theme of the conference are moving forward including the call for a worldwide referendum on climate change (proposed for April 2011), a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth and a climate justice tribunal.

In addition to what is moving forward from the official conference, this significant gathering of indigenous peoples, social movements and organizations allowed for a rich sharing of experience and knowledge. This has strengthened the growing global movement demanding climate justice. It has also empowered people to return home with new tools and insight.

As I leave Cochabamba, I’m overwhelmed by what I have experienced here and am inspired to bring the passion and knowledge I have gained to our campaign for climate justice.